Today, we're going to be addressing a peculiar issue that many Mac users have been experiencing. You might have heard from them directly or noticed a few comments and feedback left by users expressing their concerns about this.
The issue, which seems to crop up once or twice every week, involves M365 applications that are in use - primarily Outlook, Teams, Word, and Excel. Users describe an unusual sequence of events where all the open apps suddenly cease operation simultaneously, exiting and disappearing from the dock in a blink.
What adds a further twist to this situation is that these applications don't stay gone for long. Just as unexpectedly as they vanished, they make their reappearance on the dock, ready to be launched again.
Given its unpredictable nature and its inexplicable occurrence, it can be frustrating and disrupt the workflow of users. This blog post aims to explore this mystery further. By identifying the potential causes, I hope to provide solutions to overcome them, thereby enhancing the user experience of M365 on Mac systems.
So, stay tuned as we dive deep into this tech enigma, dissecting it bit by bit to bring clarity and solutions to you.
Understanding Microsoft AutoUpdate
Microsoft AutoUpdate (MAU) is a utility designed to help you manage updates for Microsoft applications on macOS. It ensures that your Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and other Microsoft apps are always up-to-date with the latest security fixes and improvements. It can be set to automatically check for updates or be manually managed, giving you control over when and how your applications are updated.
By default, MAU will perform version checks against Microsoft’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) on the Internet to determine whether the locally installed app has an update available. If an update is available, MAU will determine the smallest package to download to bring the locally installed version of the app up-to-date.
There are two scenarios where enterprise IT admins might want better control over the update workflow:
- The ability for MAU to use a local network source for retrieving update packages instead of the Microsoft CDN on the Internet. This scenario is good for ‘branch’ scenarios, and cases where Internet bandwidth is limited. For this scenario, MAU can be configured to use a ‘UpdateCache’.
- An enterprise might want to have strict control over which version of Office applications can be installed. For example, Microsoft releases production quality updates on the second or third Tuesday of each month. An enterprise might want to temporarily prevent users from updating to the new build to verify compatibility with custom applications. For this scenario, MAU can be configured to use a custom ‘ManifestServer’.
Both of the scenarios above can be deployed independently, or together, depending on the requirements of the business. MAU 3.8 or later is required to support both of these scenarios.
Understanding How MAU Works
Before you start configuring policies for MAU, it is necessary to understand that it actually works.
The Microsoft AutoUpdate (MAU) checks for application updates every 12 hours by examining a version number that is embedded in an XML file, commonly referred to as a 'manifest,' which is located online. This version number is then contrasted with the version of the app that is presently installed on the local system. If the background process detects that the XML file points to a more recent version than the installed one, the full MAU application window pops open, prompting users to execute an update.
The process breakdown is as below:
- Checking for Updates: By default, MAU periodically checks for updates in the background. It communicates with Microsoft servers to see if there are any new patches, improvements, or features available for your installed Microsoft applications.
- Download and Installation: Depending on the settings you've chosen, MAU either notifies you about available updates or directly downloads and installs them. If you've opted for automatic updates, the process happens in the background, ensuring your Microsoft applications are always current.
- Update Notifications: If your settings allow for it, MAU will send you a notification whenever updates are available. You can then choose whether to download and install the updates immediately or delay them for a later time.
- Application Closure for Updates: Some updates may require the target application to close for successful installation. MAU will prompt you to close the application if it is running during the update process.
- System Restart: Certain significant updates might need a system restart to be fully integrated. MAU will notify you and request a system restart after the installation of such updates.
How to Access Microsoft AutoUpdate on macOS
Accessing Microsoft AutoUpdate on your macOS is straightforward. There are three simple ways to access MAU on your Mac:
Method 1: From a Microsoft Office App
Open any Microsoft application, such as Word or Excel. In the menu bar at the top of the screen, click on "Help," and then select "Check for Updates." This will open the Microsoft AutoUpdate tool.
Method 2: Running Microsoft AutoUpdate
If you're unable to locate the "Check for Updates" option within the Help menu of your Microsoft applications, fret not, you can still ensure that you have the latest version by downloading the Microsoft AutoUpdate tool. Follow this link: Download Microsoft AutoUpdate 4.61 Package to download the AutoUpdate installer file. By simply clicking the link, the download of the AutoUpdate tool should commence automatically.
Method 3: Using the App Store
Exploring Microsoft AutoUpdate Options
- Manual Updates: In your Microsoft apps, you can manually check for updates by clicking on the 'Help' menu and selecting 'Check for Updates'. This will open the MAU interface, where you can view any available updates and manually initiate their download and installation.
- Automatic Updates: If you prefer not to manually check for updates, you can configure MAU to download and install updates automatically. This is particularly useful as it ensures you always have the most recent version of the application without needing to remember to check for updates regularly.
- Scheduled Updates: MAU can also be set to check for updates on a specific schedule. This can be configured in the 'How would you like updates to be installed?' section in the MAU interface.
- Choosing Update Channel: With MAU, you can also select your preferred update channel, for instance, 'Current,' 'Monthly Enterprise,' 'Semi-Annual Enterprise,' or 'Beta'. The update channel you're subscribed to can influence the frequency and type of updates you receive.
Configuring Microsoft AutoUpdate
You have multiple ways to Configure MAU
- Microsoft Intune Settings Catalog
- Custom Profile
With the Service release 2307 of Microsoft Intune, Microsoft has added the MAU configuration in the settings catalog, so now no need to deploy custom profiles for managing MAU 😍👍👌
Starting with version 4.13 of Microsoft AutoUpdate (MAU), you can set a deadline for when updates are required to be installed on a user’s Mac.
Users will receive notifications about the upcoming deadline and can temporarily postpone the updates from being installed. But once the deadline is reached, any applications the user has open will be closed and the updates applied.
To configure your Microsoft AutoUpdate settings, follow these steps:
- Sign in to the Microsoft Intune admin center.
- Select Devices > macOS >Configuration profiles > Create profile
- Select Settings catalog.
- Select Create.
- Select Next.
- In Configuration settings, select Add settings. In the settings picker, search for "MAU" to select all the available settings.
You can set a deadline for any of the following applications:
- An individual application, such as just Word.
- A group of applications, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
- All Microsoft applications that are updated by MAU.
Once you have configured the settings, the profile may look like this:
Intune allows you to control the MAU configurations using a custom profile. Similar to the settings catalog, you can configure all the options using a custom configuration profile.
An example of the configuration profile is available on my GitHub:
Up until now, managing updates for Microsoft applications on managed Macs was somewhat intricate. It necessitated the creation of custom profiles and adjusting configurations to align with specific needs. In a world where zero-day vulnerabilities are frequently discovered, it's critically important to keep user devices updated with the latest security patches. However, the update behavior of Microsoft apps also had the potential to impact user experience.
The inclusion of options to configure Microsoft AutoUpdate (MAU) in the settings catalog of the latest service promises to simplify this process. This development paves the way for more effective management and deployment of updates on your end users' Macs, minimizing disruption to the user experience. By gaining a deeper understanding of these settings and tailoring them to your needs, you can effortlessly maintain up-to-date applications, whether you favor automatic updates or prefer a more manual approach.
Remember, the world of tech is always changing, so keep an eye out for any updates to AutoUpdate itself and stay ahead of the curve.